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Looking for a job? Habitat, Sprouts, Penny Hoarder, FEMA hiring

Growth is bringing new jobs to Tampa Bay -- and two examples are expansions planned at Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas County and Sprout’s Farmers Market in Valrico.

The Clearwater-based Habitat, which has been working in south St. Petersburg on and off for 32 years, invested $1.8 million in the community this year, building 15 homes.

“We decided to go one extra step and purchase an office presence,” says CEO Mike Sutton.

Habitat purchased an existing building on 22nd Street South, directly south of St. Petersburg College’s midtown campus, for $165,000. It is expecting to move in by February or March.

“Our plan now is to have about 5-6 staff members that will work out of that office,” Sutton explains. “It will also be a hub for us to do education classes for our [Habitat] families and the community.”

Habitat is actively seeking a Director of Community Relations that will serve as the organization’s “face” in the community, Sutton says. Candidates should have a bachelor’s degree and be people-oriented. The job includes building one-on-one relationships in the community, serving on Habitat’s leadership team and ensuring the organization’s mission in South St. Pete is being fulfilled.

It also is a hiring program coordinator, who will be in charge of recruiting partner families, and an office/information specialist who will work with walk-ins to provide resources and troubleshoot problems. Additionally, two new site supervisors will oversee volunteers and homeowners with construction.

Habitat would like to fill the jobs by Jan. 1, 2018.

The underserved midtown area, which is directly south of Tropicana Field, includes properties between 9th Avenue South, 30th Avenue South, 4th Street South and 49th Street South.

“It [the new office and staff] is an investment outside of our normal budget,” Sutton says. “We do anticipate, as we move forward, it will be a regular piece to our program and our operations,”

Many of the existing homes in the area are in need of repair; others have been condemned. “A lot of the homes in the area are generational housing, so they are pieces of property or homes that have been passed down generation to generation. One of the biggest problems we see is finding clear title,” he explains.

The nonprofit builds new homes on property they’ve invested in, then sells them to qualified families with zero-percent mortgage rates. It also works with families to repair dilapidated homes.

Meanwhile the fast-growing retailer Sprouts has been expanding in Florida. “The local interest in health and value makes Valrico a natural fit for a Sprouts store,” says spokesperson Kalia Pang. “We’ve ramped up our expansion in Florida after the positive customer response and strong performance of our Tampa and Sarasota stores that opened earlier this year.”

The fifth in Florida, the Valrico store is scheduled to open at 7 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21, in 30,000 square feet of leased space at 3315 Lithia Pinecrest Road. Sprouts is planning to hire 120 or more full- and part-time staffers, including department managers, assistant department managers, clerks, cashiers, a backup receiver, administrative coordinator and scan coordinator.

Sprouts is all about healthy living for less, so potential team members should share a passion for healthy eating and the fresh, natural and organic products offered throughout the store,” Pang says.

Interested persons can learn more at the company website.

The Phoenix-based Sprouts carries a full line of groceries.

Here are more job opportunities.

  • Interested in being an art instructor? There’s a Dec. 15 deadline to apply for Art Studio instructor positions with the Tampa Museum of Art. The museum is looking for teachers in beginning jewelry, electronic sculpture with batteries, lights, and small modules, and other fine art media. Candidates must have at least a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts with a specialty in Studio Art, or an equivalent degree, plus images of work and at least two years of experience teaching in public or private settings. Instructors are paid $20 an hour. Apply online.
  • The Penny Hoarder, owned by Taylor Media Inc., announced in November that it has expanded its St. Petersburg offices and will be hiring 165 new employees by 2020. It currently employs 80, and will be adding video editors, writers, data journalists, media analysts, developers and account managers. The publication shares real stories about how people make and save money.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency is looking to hire civil engineers, flood plain managers, site inspectors and casualty insurance workers to help Florida recover from hurricane Irma. Florida residents who are interested should visit employflorida.com and search for Federal Emergency Management Agency.
  • The Minneapolis-based Sleep Number Corp., a mattress company that offers individualized, innovative solutions to improve sleep, has an opening for a sales professional in Clearwater. The position requires prior experience with face-to-face sales, preferably high-end sales.
  • The Nashville-based Correct Care Solutions is looking for healthcare professionals for the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office Detention Center at Land O’ Lakes. It has openings for a mental health professional, which requires a master’s degree in behavioral/social science, plus a registered nurse and licensed practical or vocational nurse.

If you are hiring skilled workers with five or less years of experience, drop us a line.

Natural skin care company grows with help from black business development initiatives

Renee Edwards didn’t set out to start a business. She was a mom with a problem: Her daughter was suffering from acne -- and she wanted to help.

So Edwards, who works in clinical research at St. Petersburg’s Hill Top Research, began experimenting with essential oils and exfoliation.

“It worked for my daughter [Jakara Fitzpatrick],” she says. “I thought I could sell it.”

And sell it she has. Her Skin Kandii products are available in nine retail outlets in St. Petersburg and Clearwater, including the St. Pete Store and Visitor’s Center.

A ceremonial ribbon-cutting was held last Thursday at the Second Avenue North store to mark the occasion.

“I think the real root of cleaning the skin, and relieving acne, is exfoliation,” she asserts. “I think the vitamins that are added to the scrub, and the essential oils ... aid in the healing.”

Edwards, Skin Kandii’s CEO, participated in two Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg-funded initiatives designed to help black businesses open and grow: Community Business Development Initiative and CATCH.

“It [the Community Business Development Initiative] has resulted in the creation of 27 new businesses,” says Sean Kennedy, Manager of The Greenhouse, which created the program. “Twenty existing businesses have seen revenue growth.”

The initiative was designed to encourage black-owned businesses, which are under-represented in the community, Kennedy says.

“The point of the program was to eliminate the barriers to entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial growth,” he explains.

Skin Kandii became the first African American-manufactured product line sold in The St Pete Store, a retail showcase backed by the City of St. Petersburg and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce.

Fitzpatrick was about 13 when she was experiencing severe skin issues, Edwards recalls. “She wouldn’t wear shorts or skirt in her early middle school and high school years,” she continues.

It took three years of testing, but Edwards eventually discovered sugar and essential oils could be used to exfoliate two or three times a week -- and get that problem under control.

“Once you exfoliate your skin, you also need to use a sunscreen,” she adds. “The fresh skin was turning darker.”

Along the way, with feedback from family and friends, Edwards learned enough to develop eight different scrubs she’s priced at $12.99 each. She’s also developed a lotion bar, lip balms and bath balms.

She has a stress reliever, a skin replenisher, a relaxing anti-inflammatory scrub, and even an Island blend to boost energy. Edwards’ best-selling product is a dry skin formula that has become popular as a foot scrub. It also can help with eczema.

Skin Kandii got is name as Edwards developed the dry skin formula to help her nephew, Jeremieco Robinson, with eczema. She enticed him by saying the product was candy for his skin.

Edwards also offers create-your-own formulas made with the essential oils the user prefers and containers labeled with a distributor’s name. In addition to being available in stores, Skin Kandii is sold at house parties.

Edwards would like to have a TV commercial in six months and eventually sell on St. Pete’s Home Shopping Network.

While Skin Kandii currently is run by a staff of three, she hopes to expand to hire “a whole lot of people,” she says.

She’s working on soy candles, to go on sale in December, and all natural soaps, to sell in the summer of 2018.

The Greenhouse is looking at funding options to continue the initiative, which offered training and business financing. The program already has assisted 60 businesses, among them the affordable housing firm Sago House, the youth employment company I Support Youth, the educational consulting company Global Intelligences and Brea’s Coffee, which also held a ribbon-cutting in October.

Meanwhile Tahisia Scantling, a consultant working with the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corporation, which now is backing the other program Edwards participated in, says the community development financial institution holds two cohorts of CATCH per year. It offers training and financing to help businesses.

Although a $100 application fee is charged, the fee is returned to the 10 businesses selected for the 15-week training program.

The CATCH acronym stands for coachable, action-oriented, timely, collaboration help. The program now is also being offered in Hillsborough County, with sponsorship by Wells Fargo.


Clearwater advertising firm grows, new manufacturing jobs come to Pasco County

The 45-year-old Our Town America, an advertising firm that targets new residents, has moved its headquarters into 44,000-square-feet of office space in Clearwater -- and is making plans to hire 15 to 20 additional staffers.

I’m anxious to get them in here and give them an opportunity to grow with our company,” says CEO Michael Plummer Jr.

The company in a growth mode by working with businesses that want to advertise to new residents. Such businesses are often grocery stories, restaurants, hair salons and auto repair shops, or doctors and dentists who want to develop new business relationships. Businesses pay on average $200 a month to target potential customers by things like age, size of household, income, and other demographics.

About two to six weeks after move-in, residents receive an envelope offering “housewarming gifts” such as gift certificates for a free pizza or haircut to entice them to drop by and check out the neighborhood businesses.

When people move in, they’re still searching for those business,” Plummer explains. “They want to know where to go.”

Our Town America disseminates about half a million envelopes every month -- or more than 8 million each year. With some 63 franchises nationwide, they focus primarily on neighborhoods rather than zipcodes.

A lot of it is designed ... to get you off the couch and into those locations,” he says.

Once the initial contact is made, businesses may choose to follow up with another offer, a simple thank you, or a request for feedback.

Our Town America moved last week from smaller rented space in Pinellas Park to its own headquarters at 13900 U.S. Highway 19 N. Clearwater. Built by local contractor Mike Sinwelski, the facility features a 2,700-square-foot, high-tech conference room, a huge breakroom, and LED lights, plus a roof with solar power options.

The company, which employees about 58 locally, was founded by Plummer’s father in Des Moines, IA. After relocating to Omaha and Houston, the company moved to the Tampa Bay Area in 1990. It began selling franchises in 2005, and sold a record-breaking 12 this year. Despite its growth, it continues to be a family-based business with a welcoming atmosphere, which includes catered lunches, potluck dinners, company cruises and other perks.

“The vast majority of our folks have been here for a very long time,” he adds.

Our Town America is hiring for both part-time and full-time positions, with openings in customer service, appointment setting, inside sales and possibly production help for mailouts. Learn more by visiting the OTA website or calling 1-800-497-8360.

Here are more job opportunities in the Tampa Bay area.

Meopta U.S.A. will be opening a new facility in western Pasco County and hiring for 47 new advanced manufacturing positions. Headquartered in Hauppauge, NY, Meopta U.S.A. specializes in the manufacture of and distribution of precision optics such as binoculars and spotting and rifle scopes. It also makes prisms, optical mirrors, aerospace and medical assemblies, and tank periscopes. The jobs will be in the Trinity area and pay an average of about $49,000 annually.

• With all the jockeying by communities seeking Amazon’s second headquarters, the major online retailer is certainly on people’s minds. If you’re wondering about job prospects, read on. Brenda Alfred, Amazon’s Regional Operations PR Manager, says the retailers will be hiring 5,000 employees in Florida, most of them for the holiday season. She did not provide specifics for the Tampa Bay region.

“We employ temporary employees as a way of finding high-quality talent while managing variation in customer demand,” she says. “Following last year’s holiday season, thousands of seasonal employees found regular, full-time roles with Amazon.”

Interested individuals should visit the Amazon website.

Heart Gallery of Pinellas & Pasco, an agency working to increase the number of foster children who are successfully adopted, is looking for an Executive Director in St. Petersburg.


Tampa Bay jobs: New healthcare, restaurant positions on tap

Cognizant Technology Solutions has opened its fourth Tampa facility, with plans to hire an additional 75 employees. And Dave & Busters is planning to hire more than 230 for its new restaurant/ entertainment complex in the vicinity of Brandon Mall.  

The latest Cognizant expansion follows a 2014 commitment to invest $5.7 million in Tampa area facilities and hire 412 employees here. “We’re now increasing that commitment, investing approximately $500,000 more in capital expenditures and creating 75 additional jobs over the next 4 years,” says Eric Westphal, Cognizant’s Senior Director in Global Corporate Affairs.

Westphal indicates Tampa’s business climate was a draw.

“Tampa is home to many of the Fortune 500 and 1000 clients we serve, particularly in the healthcare and financial services industries,” he says. “Among the area’s outstanding features is the strong local talent pool of skilled business process, IT and consulting professionals.”

He notes a “thriving array” of support organizations in the area.

“Cognizant also has a growing partnership with CareerSource Tampa Bay and Hillsborough Community College to develop technology training courses for students,” he adds. “Driving these types of programs is central to our business philosophy as one of the nation’s largest employers of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) professionals.”

Cognizant is hiring full-time high-skilled technology and business professionals, with wages typically meeting or exceed local averages. Among the sought-after skills are IT application development, IT application testing, business process services, and application value management.

More information is available on the career page on the Cognizant website.

One of the largest providers of services to healthcare organizations in the United States, Cognizant’s new Tampa facility will focus primarily on healthcare support and services. The company, which also has operations in East and West Tampa, opened its new office earlier this month in approximately 30,000 square feet at 4631 Woodland Corporate Blvd. in West Tampa.

The Dallas-based Dave & Buster’s, which operates some 100 restaurant/entertainment complexes in North America, is scheduled to open its Brandon restaurant October 30, with hiring commencing September 27.

General Manager Tim Johnson is looking to hire for a wide variety of positions, including cooks, dishwashers, food runners, bussers, hostesses, servers, bartenders, plus technicians that work on the games and interact with the folks in the midway arcade area. He also is seeking guest ambassadors, front desk personnel, and customer service help in the winner’s circle, where people redeem their game tickets.

Salary is based on experience.

Experience is always a plus, but it’s not required,” Johnson says. “I usually hire everybody in as a part-time employee. I hope they’ll be full time.”

Interested persons can apply online.

The new 40,000-square-foot facility, which is under construction, will feature a dining room, sports lounge with a big TV and billiards, a main bar and midway gaming area. It will offer hundreds of the latest arcade games plus some old favorites like Pacman.

We’re entertainment across the board. It’s not just food and games,” says Johnson, who is relocating from Panama City Beach. “We’re just excited to be coming down to the Brandon/Tampa area. ... I bought a home there and I’m planning on making it home.”

Here are some more job opportunities.
 

  • Full-time temporary jobs are available to people eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance because their jobs were impacted by Hurricane Irma. CareerSource Tampa Bay and CareerSource Pinellas are developing temporary jobs for eligible individuals who want to assist with recovery efforts. Learn more at www.careersourcetampabay.com or www.careersourcepinellas.com. Disaster assistance is available for employers and individuals; there is an Oct. 16 deadline to apply.
  • As the nation recovers from hurricanes Irma and Harvey, the Small Business Administration is seeking temporary help with disaster relief in areas affected by the storms. Bilingual language skills are helpful. SBA is seeking damage verifiers, customer service representatives/public information officers, information technology specialists, construction analysts nationwide. Learn more.
  • The engineering company UC Synergetic has expanded it regional operations in ComPark 75 in Wesley Chapel and is expecting to create 25 new jobs. The Fort Mill, S.C.-based company, with 41 offices and 1,600 employees in 40 states, currently employs 80 in its 19,000-square-foot Wesley Chapel office. A a subsidiary of Pike Corporation, one of the largest providers of outsourced construction, repair and engineering services to U.S. utilities, UC Synergetic specializes in engineering and project management services.
  • Check out the latest career opportunities in the arts at the Art Council's TampaArts website. There currently are job openings for a museum operations assistant at Tampa Museum, a community programs coordinator at Straz Center in Tampa, and a part-time art coordinator at the SouthShore Library in Ruskin.
  • Ecological Consulting Solutions, Inc. is seeking a full-time biologist for its Tampa office. Duties for the Environmental Scientist I include working on surveys of threatened and endangered species, analysis of environmental constraints, wetland delineation, and permitting for wetland and listed species.
  • A data scientist position is available with SysMind LLC in Tampa. Two years of professional experience with Python is required. Duties include acquiring and organizing data so it can be used in advanced natural language generation apps.
  • Feather Sound Country Club in Clearwater is looking for someone to maintain its tennis courts for some 30 to 39 hours a week. Applicants should be knowledgeable about all phases of court maintenance, be able to inventory and repair equipment, and have basic computer skills such as MS Word and Excel.

Clearwater boat manufacturer adding jobs after merger

After a merger, one of the largest catamaran builders in the United States is ramping up its Pinellas County headquarters and marina with plans to double its staff.

The Seattle-based Coastal Marine initiated the merger with the Clearwater-based Endeavour Catamaran Corporation because it was looking to increase its market base.

The new company is called Endeavour Corporation.

“We saw a potential for both brands,” explains Rob Harty, Endeavour Corporation’s President. “We used to have boats only up to 42 feet and now we have boats up to 50 feet. The brands complement each other.”

Coastal Marine was founded in Hong Kong in 2008 during the economic downturn. As the company looked to scale upwards, it moved to Seattle in 2012. Now it has resettled in Clearwater, where Endeavour Catamaran had an established name in boatbuilding.

“If we’re going to be in the United States, the Florida market is 10x larger than anywhere else in the country,” he says. “This is the mecca of boating.”

Endeavour, which is producing luxury and performance catamarans, is looking to double its local staff of 20, possibly in the next year. It is seeking skilled boat builders: people experienced in carpentry, mechanics, electrical, and fiberglass technology. It also is looking for office staff in sales, administration and marketing.

The company may hire at the entry level, train workers, and move them up in the company. “That’s always how I found it to work best,” he says. “Some of our needs are bigger than entry level.”

Experience in a related field may be helpful. “A boat’s very much like a house,” he says.

Endeavour Catamaran, which dates back to the 1970s, already had an extremely experienced staff that has been with the company for decades, he notes.

“When owners bring their EndeavourCats in for upgrading or maintenance, they’re likely to have the same staff who built their boat performing that service,” he says.

The merger occurred as a result of a successful collaboration between the two companies, which both were industry leaders in the design, manufacture and sales of power catamarans.

“The collaboration is a win-win for all involved. Blending the 40-year history and stellar reputation of EndeavourCats with the innovative spirit of ArrowCat has made the Endeavour Corporation a power cat powerhouse,” Harty says.

Endeavour is operating its manufacturing facility at 3703 131st Ave. N. in Clearwater and a marina at 13030 Gandy Blvd., St. Petersburg.

We’ve made a substantial investment in our 60,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Clearwater, where we’re planning to introduce and build two new entry-level boat models in the next six months,” Harty says.

“American Yacht and Custom, our servicing center, is due to open by the end of the year, thanks to a significant investment. We’re excited to offer top-notch boatyard services as well as custom rigging and detailing,” he says.

“We’re really proud of our new, massive, state-of-the-art paint facility. As the largest in the region, it’s certainly going to advance the use of composite coatings in the boating industry,” he adds.

The company’s boats are typically used for expeditions. “Our boats are used by people who really want a more all-purpose boat,” Harty says. “You can stay on this boat for extended periods of time protected from the elements.”

The catamarans are stable, high-performing, comfortable and convenient, he says.

“These boats are like Humvees. If there was ever a four-wheel drive monster boat, that is what we build,” he says. “People are not afraid to take it anywhere.”

The semi-custom boats sell for $289,000 up to $1 million.

Endeavor will be producing luxury catamarans under the Endeavor TrawlerCat brand and performance catamarans with the ArrowCat name. Its Endeavour 340 model, the result of collaboration between Coastal Marine and Endeavor Catamaran Corporation, will be featured this fall, offering a blend of simplicity, elegance, and efficiency.

What does the future hold? “Down the road we’ll expand to offer sailing catamarans,” Harty says.


Greek, Caribbean music highlight heritage festivals in Tampa Bay Area in June

Tarpon Springs merchants are planning their inaugural Opa! Palooza, a celebration of their Greek heritage, June 9-11. The event features authentic Greek music and up to 90 vendors of arts and crafts.

And in Tampa, Caribbean music is featured at Tampa Bay Caribbean Heritage Festival on June 3 at the University Area CDC.

The Tarpon Springs Merchant Association is hosting Opa! Palooza, being organized by SIK Promotions of St. Petersburg. It hopes to attract visitors to the community known for its sponge docks in the off season, says Suzanne King, SIK’s Owner.

“We want to do cooking demonstrations, other kinds of authentic talks, workshops. We’re talking with the guy that designs and makes the diving helmet,” King says.

The free event runs from noon to 9 p.m. on June 9, from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on June 10, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 11 on Dodecanese Boulevard.

The itinerary includes a Battle of the Bands Saturday night, with the winner being chosen to perform at Tarpon’s Seafood Festival, also organized by SIK, in November. Odyssey and Ellada will perform and author Demetra Tsavaris-Lecourezos will be on hand for storytelling. A petting zoo also is planned.

Also in Tarpon Springs, the One Act Plays Festival runs from June 8 to 11 at the Tarpon Springs Performing Arts Center, 324 Pine St. General admission is $18 for a performance of 10 plays by 10 playwrights, with shows at 7:30 p.m. June 8, 9 and 10. The curtain rises at 2 p.m. June 11.

In Tampa, the Caribbean festival is scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m. at 14013 N. 22nd St. Performances by Jah Movement, Teddyson John, Fete Fit/Get Moving, DJ Spice, Voz y Accion de Puerto Rico and Tropical Groove Jazz are planned. Tickets are $10, with children 10 and under free.

The event, hosted by CANDO-Caribbean American National Development Organization, Inc., features food trucks and children’s activities.

Here are some other events planned in June.

Rock the Park is slated at 6:30 p.m. June 1 at Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park downtown. This free monthly music series concert, which is for all age groups, features Zigtebra, Luxury Mane and Ari Chi.

St. Petersburg Opera Company is featuring The Tales of Hoffmann at 7:30 p.m. June 2, 2 p.m. June 4, and 7:30 p.m. June 6 at the Palladium Theatre, 235 Fifth Ave N.

• The 24th Annual St. Pete Beach Corey Area Craft Festival runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 3 and 4 at 595 Corey Ave. The free event includes handmade pottery, jewelry, paintings and more.

• Clearwater Spring Concert Series: Third Eye Blind -- Take a trip back in time with this alternative rock band along the water at Coachman Park in downtown Clearwater. Show begins at 8 p.m. and tickets start at $31.

• The 16th Annual St. Armands Circle Craft Festival kicks off June 10 at 411 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota. The free event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 10 and 11. Learn more here.

• Carrollwood Cultural Center has a number of events planned for June, including an outdoor market with crafts from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 10 and Cypress Creek Dixieland Jazz Band at 8 p.m. June 10. Get the details on these and other events here.

• Independent film buffs, music lovers and foodies gather from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. every third Thursday (June 15th, July 20, etc.) for Flicks And Food Trucks at The Grand Central at Kennedy at 1208 E. Kennedy Blvd., in Tampa’s Channel District. The event is free.

• Travel vicariously at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in Tampa. Its International Photography 2017 Exhibition showcases winners from June 23 to August 18.

• The 15th Annual Downtown Dunedin Craft Festival is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 24 and 25 at 271 Main St., Dunedin. The event is free.

Learn more about the June art scene in Tampa Bay at Arts Tampa Bay and at Creative Pinellas.


Tampa staffing startup chosen for global tech showcase

A Tampa Bay staffing startup company, patterned after online matchmaking services, has been chosen to participate in Emerge Americas Startup Showcase in Miami, a major global business-to-business tech event featuring entrepreneurs from Latin America, North America and Europe.

Monikl was one of 125 companies selected in three categories for the June 12-13 business-to-business tech conference. It will have a booth at the event and the opportunity to participate in a pitch competition for up to $100,000.

The company, launched in January, is intended to save users time and money by matching job candidates and employers. What makes it different is its ability to perform like a full-time staff company from an Internet platform. It uses a quiz, that can be filled out in five to 10 minutes, to match applicants with companies that are suited to them.

“Instead of looking through thousands of resumes, you’re basically getting five to 10 high quality matches,” says Monikl CEO and Co-Founder Zachary Senz Kamler. “Our aim is to produce quality not quantity.”

Using an app for Android and Apple phones or the web, users sign up for free. The employer pays 7.5 percent of a direct hire’s salary, for the first year. It also works with temporaries and contract hires.

Monikl is generally targeting the tech and healthcare fields in the Tampa Bay area, or basically 50 miles from Tampa’s downtown. It already has some 1,000 job seekers and several companies -- and is growing steadily.

“In general our goal is to reach 10,000 users in the Tampa Bay area by the end of the year. Once we reach that, we’ll be able to acquire more capital and expand out to other cities,” he says.

Senz-Kamler, who has a background in staffing and a bachelor’s degree in Business and Entrepreneurship from the University of South Florida, is partnering with CTO Jonathan Antoneli.

“We’re clearing up the path to finding a job,” Senz-Kamler explains.

In Tampa Bay WaVE’s Build program, Monikl uses WaVE co-working space. “We have been setting them up with mentors, goals and connections. Monikl has some great leadership and hunger to grow and we love having them in our program,” says Daniel McDonald, Accelerator Manager.


Clearwater Business SPARK celebrates one year of assisting entrepreneurs

When Clearwater SPARK launched last year, the business network targeted the needs of area entrepreneurs and start-up companies. The initiative planned to be a support system for these businesses, offering them a variety of services at all levels, from conception to operations.

At the time, the program brought together five partners: the city of Clearwater’s Economic Development and Housing Department, the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Small Business Development Center at Pinellas County Economic Development, Florida Business Incubator (formerly known as TAFFIE) and the Clearwater Public Library System. Each partner had something different to offer small business owners and SPARK would serve as the conduit between the organizations involved and local entrepreneurs.

SPARK introduced its partners to the community at its March 2016 kick-off event at the Clearwater Main Library. Now, as SPARK partners reflect on its first year, the network will host another event at the library, Wednesday, May 24, 6 to 8 p.m.

“It really feels like we’ve come full circle,” says Audra Aja, Clearwater’s Economic Development Coordinator. “Here we are a year later bringing the community back to the library.”

The business initiative has a lot to celebrate, adds Aja, who fields calls for SPARK from her office at City Hall. In its first year, she made around 150 referrals to the initiative’s partners.

“The community has really responded to us and shown its support,” she says. “We bring a much-needed service to the community.”

SPARK has also welcomed two new partners since its launch. In January, Prospera, formerly known as the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund, joined the network as a way to reach out to Hispanic-owned businesses in Clearwater.

The latest partner to join forces with SPARK, Pinellas County SCORE, will be formally introduced at the May 24 event. SCORE, a nonprofit association with thousands of business experts worldwide, offers mentorship for small businesses and other educational resources.

The organization has been involved with SPARK from the beginning. They held business workshops at the Main Library. “They just weren’t an official partner,” Aja says.

SCORE brings new resources to the table, she adds. “They’ll be able to help those in the beginning phases of exploring their ideas and getting started. That’s something we didn’t have in our network. SCORE comes in at the entry level.”
 
In addition to accepting more referrals from SPARK, SCORE will also offer one-on-one consultations at Clearwater venues as well as more workshops.

The May 24 event will also serve as an open house for the library’s Maker Studios, Aja says. The Main Library has five studios spread throughout the building: the Creation Studio, the Discovery Studio, the Innovation Studio, the Multimedia Studio and the Heritage Studio, which will open in July. The Maker Studios launched last May.

During the open house, guests will tour the Multimedia and Innovation Studios, where they will learn about the free programs for small businesses and entrepreneurs, and view hands-on demonstrations of the equipment available in these spaces. Software, programs and equipment available for use include business databases, 3-D printers and scanners, design and production software, and audio and video equipment.

Rino Landa, Maker Studios coordinator, says not many libraries offer a makerspace. So the Clearwater Main Library stands out as a space for entrepreneurs and small businesses, he says. The wide range of offerings – from painting and sewing classes to tools for start-ups to genealogy resources – is also remarkable. “We are unique in that we have multiple spaces throughout the library and so much to offer on each floor,” he says.

Aja says the Maker Studios is the most “underutilized” aspect of SPARK, so the May 24 open house is designed to remind residents that it’s available to them. It’s also continuing to evolve, she adds, especially as new technology is developed. She says the library will add more multimedia tools and expand its workshop schedule in the coming year. “We’re really very fortunate that the library has invested in this for the community,” she says.

Register for the May 24 event at the Clearwater SPARK website or call (727) 443-0217.

Tampa Bay job news: Vology, World Wide Technology, Connectwise growing, hiring

The Largo-based Vology, a managed IT service provider, has announced it will be adding up to 200 jobs within the next two to four years. The company relocated from Oldsmar to Largo last fall, investing $3.75 million.

“We’re still adjusting to our new buildings,” says spokesman Trent Brock. “We finally have everything up and running.”

Vology renovated and upped its space from 50,000 to 60,000 square feet when it moved from Tampa Road to the Bay Vista Office Park with a Clearwater mailing address.  It opted for the Largo location to be more centrally located within the Tampa Bay area.

“It gives an opportunity to take in a new market for IT talent,” he says.

Additional details on the new jobs weren’t immediately available, but job seekers are advised to check the company’s website for the latest details.

Meanwhile World Wide Technology, a St. Louis-based innovative technology and supply chain solutions provider, has revamped its Tampa offices.

“We decided to build a virtual or remote executive briefing facility,” explains Scot Gagnon, Director of Army and Special Operations. “It kind of looks like we’re all sitting in the same room because the technology has come so far.”

The upgrade accommodates remote testing and helps clients access the newest technology, without the travel. The offices at 5426 Bay Center Drive include new collaborative work spaces.

“We’re still unpacking, We literally just moved back in,” Gagnon says.

He has plans to hire two sales engineers this year to work with customers on product design.

WWT has been in Tampa since 2007.

Here are some other job opportunities in the Tampa Bay area.

  • The software company Connectwise, which beat is first Quarter goal in 2017, is posting a 22 percent growth rate. The Tampa-based company, which employs 900 workers globally, lists on its website openings for a benefits specialist, traffic manager, system administrator, illustrator, junior developer and more.
  • Kelly Career Network is looking for two web content professionals in St. Petersburg for two-month contracts, with pay set at $20 to $24 an hour. It is looking for a high school diploma or its equivalent and at least four years of related experience; an associate’s degree and at least one year of formal education in web design, development, or computer/internet sciences is preferred.
  • Syniverse, a global leader in mobile communications, is looking for a career success specialist for its New Tampa office. The position requires an undergraduate degree in business or marketing and strong interpersonal, communication, analytical and problem-solving skills. Other openings include a customer operations specialist, level I position.


If you are hiring skilled workers with five or less years of experience, drop us a line.


Gourmet flavoring company claims marketing award

The Clearwater-based Monin Americas has claimed a Marketing of the Year Award for its research process directing the marketing of its flavorings for coffee, tea, lemonade and cocktails.

Its eight-step, Flavor Forward Process involves online surveys and actual taste tests to determine which flavors are most worthy, says Cassie Kane, Brand Marketing Director in Clearwater.

“We develop a ton of flavors, that’s really what we are,” Kane says. “Years ago we didn’t have an organized way of really collecting our research and determining what we were going to produce.”

The Flavor Forward Process includes taking inventory, global insights, online databases that track menu offerings, demographics, other research sources, and input from its global Beverage Innovation Directors, she says.

“We ... take all of these trends, all of those things we see in the market,” she says.

The hand-blown glass award was given by Tampa Bay Chapter of the American Marketing Association for Market Research in March.

Monin Americas is a division of Monin Gourmet Flavorings, which opened in 1912 in Bourges, France. It offers more than 200 gourmet flavors in more than 145 countries.

Monin also ranked in the top 30 in the Tampa Bay Times’ 2017 Top Work Places.

Monin Americas, which oversees operations in North America, South America and the Caribbean, is located near Hercules Avenue and Drew Street in Clearwater. It employs more than 100.

In addition to their offices, there is a production facility that makes syrups for the Americas and an innovation center with a commercial kitchen, bar and cafe. Monin also has a new 100,000-square-foot warehouse in Largo, which is double the size of the warehouse it replaces, she says.

Monin offers a mix of flavors from the more traditional to innovative, including vanilla, caramel and hazelnut for coffee, and mango, raspberry and peach flavorings for tea and other beverages. Its Hawaiian island blend features yellow passion fruit, orange and guava.


Natural gas-powered buses ready to roll in Pasco County

Pasco County Schools will soon be the first in Florida to build and run their own fast-fill compressed natural gas station. The first of its natural-gas buses will arrive in mid-May, when they will be completing the new gas station just south of State Road 54 along Interlaken Road north of Tampa.

“We are about a month away from taking ownership,” says Tad Kledzik, Manager of Transportation Services. “We will begin operations with start of the fiscal year [July 1].”

Thirty 2017 Bluebird Vision CNG buses will begin arriving, three at time, in mid-May, and be phased into the existing fleet of more than 400 buses. Some 48 of them are propane, which use the same motor but a different fuel.

Each bus costs about $130,000, about $30,000 more than a diesel bus.

Pasco County Schools are investing $3 million each in their fast-fill station and a maintenance, operations and parking facility for the new natural gas-powered buses. The district is expecting to pay an additional $3.9 million for the first 30 buses and potentially a total of $11.7 million for 90 natural gas buses at the facility. It also would use some 10 to 12 diesel buses already in the fleet.

There are a number of advantages of the buses fueled by gas from Louisiana and Texas, which is piped into Florida at Jacksonville.

“The big thing ... is cleaner emission,” Kledzik says.

It’s also less noisy, a plus when hauling a bus-load full of talking children. “That allows our drivers to hear a little bit better on the bus as to what is going on,” he says.

As a domestic source of fuel, CNG is less volatile in price. The ability to essentially lock-in the price gives the district a greater ability to manage finance costs. “What happens elsewhere is less likely to impact the cost of CNG here,” he explains. “There’s enough CNG here in the U.S. to meet certainly our needs and many more needs.”

The district has tapped into the system in the Odessa area. The CNG will be provided by Clearwater Gas.

A grand opening is scheduled at 9 am. May 16, says spokeswoman Linda Cobbe. The new buses will roll for the 2017-18 school year.

The district began looking into alternative fuel sources in 2012, before buses like these existed, Kledzik says. The vision for CNG came from Deputy Superintendent Ray Gadd.

Though the Pasco district will be the first to build and operate its own station, others are already going green with CNG buses using third-party fuel providers. “Leon [County’s school district] has a similar facility to what we’re producing right now. Leon entered into contract with a 3rd party provider,” he says.

In the Tampa Bay area, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority became the first public transit authority in Florida to begin converting from diesel to CNG in 2014, according to Sandra Morrison, Public Information Officer.

HART currently runs 34 CNG buses in its fleet of nearly 200 buses, plus an additional 39 of its 61 HARTPlus vans and all eight HARTFlex vans. Some 25 additional CNG buses are arriving this fiscal year, Morrison says.

Hillsborough County public schools are running 50 propane buses and another 40 are on order. “We just didn’t have an interest in it [CNG], simply because of the cost,” says Jim Beekman, General Manager of Transportation.

The propane buses cost only $4400 more than diesel.

Pinellas County’s school district began running 58 new propane-powered buses this school year. The buses save the district money on fuel and maintenance, in addition to being more environmentally friendly, a spokeswoman says.

As the Pasco district's personnel are trained on the new buses, Kledzik says they plan to let surrounding districts in on the education process, which will include information on propane buses as well. “We’re looking to open it up and make it more a multi-county effort,” he says.

Kledzik says the new CNG buses are a way to “diversify the composition” of the fleet. He expects the school district will continue to invest in propane – and diesel. Diesel still is preferred for long trips outside of the county, and even longer trips within the county, he says.

“I don’t believe we’d get away completely from diesel buses,” he says.

Tampa Bay Alternative Fuel Vehicle Expo is slated from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. April 20 at 11780 Tampa Gateway Blvd, Seffner.

More information on alternative fuels is available at the Alternative Fuels Data Center or the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Clean Cities Program at 1-800-CCITIES.


Jobs Roundup: Who is hiring? Home Depot, Vistra Communications, CWU Inc., City of Clearwater

The Atlanta-based Home Depot is in a spring hiring spree, with plans to hire some 1,350 in the greater Tampa area during March, or by early April. Its goal is to hire more than 80,000 associates in all of its stores and distribution centers for the season.

“Some of those have already been hired,” says Matt Harrigan, a Home Depot spokesman. “Spring is always our busiest time of year. ... It’s kind of like Christmas in our stores. Its really our holiday season.”

Home Depot is hiring for a “mix” of positions, depending on the individual store’s needs, he says. It will fill positions for cashiers, lot associates, garden and freight personnel. Full, part-time and temporary positions may be available.

About half of the typical, 90-day-seasonal workers stay on after the rush, and can apply their hours toward company benefits, Harrigan says.

Those benefits include profit sharing, tuition assistance, discounted stock purchases, and 401Ks. Employees also have access to the company's associate discount site, where they can purchase cell phones, electronics, gym memberships and other items.

Salaries vary by store location and employee qualifications, Harrigan says.

Home Depot announced its streamlined online application process earlier this month. It optimized the process for mobile use, reducing estimated application time from 90 to 15 minutes, he explains.

It offers job-related training on product lines, computers and other skills associated with their assignment.

“Primarily we look for just someone who is passionate about customer service,” Harrigan adds. “Our focus is always to find associates that will fit our orange-blooded culture.”

Employees typically wear an orange apron saying “I put customers first.” The company’s core values include taking care of customers and each other, the entrepreneurial spirit, giving back to the community, veterans' housing and other home improvement projects, he says.

With 30 stores in the greater Tampa area, it’s one of Home Depot’s larger markets, he says.

The company’s website advertises jobs are “in bloom” and people can “put down roots where they really can grow.” It indicates 16- and 17-year-olds in Florida are welcome to apply for store support/lot associate, customer service/sales associate (garden) and cashier jobs.

Home Depot, which has a total of 2,278 retail stores, racked up $94.6 billion in sales during the 2016 fiscal year, earning $8 billion.

Here are some other job opportunities in Tampa Bay.

• Vistra Communications has moved its headquarters to Lutz and is planning to hire 50 new employees by 2022, doubling its size and pumping $1.3 million into the economy. Vistra was founded in 2007 and serves corporate, government and nonprofit clients. It is a nationally recognized, full-service communications and professional solutions agency. Submit your resume or learn more about current opportunities here.

• CWU Inc. recently announced plans to move from Clearwater to Tampa and add 20 new jobs by 2018. The company, founded in 2004, also is moving 30 existing positions to Tampa. It provides direct operational and training support services to more than 90 federal agencies. Learn more.

• The city of Clearwater is advertising ongoing employment opportunities on its website for a library volunteer coordinator, library intern, seasonal marine operator, social events staff, beach lifeguards, wastewater plant operators, and school crossing guards. Applicants should print out an application here, fill it out and submit it to Municipal Services Building at 100 South Myrtle Avenue, Clearwater, FL, or fax it to (727) 562-4877. No online applications are being accepted for these positions.


Pinellas artists sought for new grant program

Creative Pinellas is looking for up-and-coming artists for a new grant program that encourages them to create new work. Its Emerging Artists Grant program will award $2,000 each to 10 working in the creative arts, who will be mentored by someone in their field.

“I’ve never seen a mentoring program, outside of a school program, for emerging artists,” says Barbara St. Clair, Executive Director of Creative Pinellas. “We heard that people needed help taking their work and professional careers to the next level.”

The grant was developed specifically to recognize -- and support -- artists early in their careers, as they are building their followings. It is open to older adults early in an arts career.

The program provides financial and mentoring support and the opportunity to showcase their work. A panel of professional and academic artists will do the judging.

“We’re open to artists in pretty much every discipline,” she adds.

Creative Pinellas is looking for artists in: literature, choreography, interdisciplinary, media arts, music composition, theatre/musical theatre, and visual arts. They must be at least 18 and a legal resident of Pinellas County for at least one year; they also must agree to maintain legal residency during the grant period ending in October.

Artists must have a track record of success, a strong portfolio, a plan for the future, and a commitment to participate in the exhibition planned Oct. 26. Grant participants are expected to work with mentors and make regular reports on the progress of their work between July 1st and October 26.

Two workshops are scheduled for potential applicants. The first one is scheduled from 5:30-7 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, at Morean Arts Center for Clay, 420 22nd Street South, St. Petersburg. The second one is planned from 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday, March 30. The location has not been announced.

Applications are being accepted online through 5 p.m. April 12. Artists are advised to begin uploading before or by 4:30 p.m. to ensure their work is successfully received by the deadline. More information is available at Creative Pinellas. Awards will be announced in June.

Creative Pinellas also has been working with artists “more at the pinnacle” of their careers, St. Clair says.

The county’s local art agency, Creative Pinellas is supported by the Pinellas County Commission, Visit St Petersburg/Clearwater, the State of Florida, and by sales of the State of the Arts specialty license plate in Pinellas County.


CO.STARTERS program targets creatives, health professionals, techies

TEC Garage will be offering a nine-week program to help aspiring entrepreneurs in the creative arts, healthcare and technology industries beginning March 28. Called CO.STARTERS, the program will help prospective entrepreneurs test their ideas and potentially launch their businesses.

“This program is being sponsored in part by Creative Pinellas. We are asking the other tech companies to pay their portion of the fees,” says Tonya Elmore, CEO of Tampa Bay Innovation Center.

TEC Garage was developed by the TBIC to support entrepreneurs. It typically works with tech businesses, not artists. But they started receiving inquiries from local artists interested in starting businesses, so the TEC Garage pilot tested the program with creative types last year. 

“We wanted to see if they played well in the sandbox together and they did,” she says.

CO.STARTERS will be held on Tuesdays from 6-9 p.m. at TEC Garage, 244 2nd Ave. North, St. Petersburg. During the series, J.J. Roberts, director of TEC Garage, and other business professionals from the Tampa Bay area will be featured as guest speakers.

More information is available on the classes here.

The CO.STARTERS program normally costs $275. The fee includes two months of co-working space at the TEC Garage upon graduation, which is usually priced at $150. More information is available at 727-547-7340.

Scholarships are available through Creative Pinellas, an organization dedicated to fostering the Pinellas County arts community. They are offered to artists, those who are part of artists’ organizations, and entrepreneurs in creative industries, says Barbara St. Clair, Executive Director of Creative Pinellas.

“If you’re a professional artist, you are a business,” she explains. “All of those things that a business knows ...  are really relevant to you.”

Attendees may have more in common than the obvious tie-ins between art and technology in careers such as graphic arts. The separation has become “very porous,” St. Clair says.

There are more subtle connections between art in healing and though collaborations between the technological and the creative. “There are some exciting ways in which the two cross over and meet with each other,” St. Clair says.

The pilot program apparently had a big impact. “We sold out the first one in like 48 hours, which is why we are doing it again. People are very excited.”

Some said the course changed their lives. “It really did seem to have a significant impact on the individuals who participated,” she adds.

The Company Lab, a Chattanooga, TN organization, developed CO.STARTERS, which is available to startups nationwide.


Prospera joins Clearwater SPARK, nurtures Hispanic businesses

Twenty-five years ago, Prospera -- then called the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund -- was established in a small West Tampa office. 

There was a need to support Hispanic entrepreneurs in the area, says Claudia Johnson, senior business development consultant on the West Coast. Prospera stepped in to fill this void by offering bilingual technical assistance and workshops to Spanish-speaking businesses.

Decades later, the organization has spread to markets in south Florida and as far north as Jacksonville. Additional offices have opened in Miami and Orlando. Over the past 25 years, Prospera has “supported several thousands of people,” Johnson says. “Our objective became to strengthen the state of Florida’s economical sector with Hispanics.” 

Now, Clearwater is the latest city in Prospera’s far-reaching network. As of January, the group became the sixth organization to join Clearwater Business SPARK, a city-led business incubator that brings together a variety of resources for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Prospera was looking for a home base in Pinellas County, Johnson says, and Clearwater made the most sense for a partnership. “The city has the majority of Hispanics [in the county,]” she says. “So that is where we are working closely. Now we have a more clear collaboration, a strong collaboration.” 

Denise Sanderson, the city’s director of Economic Development and Housing, says Hispanic entrepreneurs and small businesses represent approximately 20 percent of the city’s population. “Hispanic-owned businesses are an important and growing sector of our local economy,” she adds.

While Pinellas County residents were always welcome to participate in Prospera’s workshops and grant programs in other cities, the organization is now specifically targeting Clearwater. The organization will host six bilingual public workshops covering a variety of topics of interest to small businesses at Clearwater libraries throughout the year. The first was held Jan. 31 with around 30 attendees, Johnson says. 

In addition to training, and mentorship assistance with marketing and business planning, Prospera offers grants to small businesses looking to pay for professional services such as accountants and attorneys. The group also helps facilitate small business loans to entrepreneurs through partnerships with several banking institutions. “We’ve facilitated about $20 million worth of money for loans for clients throughout the whole state,” Johnson says.

She adds, “We’re here to help strengthen their business -- from start-ups to ongoing businesses. We’re a very active organization to help Hispanics.”
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